Mt. St. Joe comes up short vs. DeMatha

Bid for perfection ends with loss in Alhambra final

DeMatha 70 Mount St. Joseph 55


FROSTBURG -- After experiencing unprecedented success, top-ranked Mount St. Joseph saw its near-perfect boys basketball season end on a losing note.

The Gaels, who set a state record for wins in a season, were defeated by DeMatha, 70-55, in the 46th Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament final last night. Mount St. Joseph finishes 38-1.

Playing before an overflow crowd of more than 5,000 at Frostburg State University's Bobcat Arena, the Gaels, ranked No. 5 by USA Today, fell apart for the first time this season, to DeMatha, the most dominant team in the history of the tournament and the fourth-ranked team nationally.

"They're really good, and it wasn't just a couple players who beat us. It was six through 10," said coach Pat Clatchey, whose Gaels had won 39 in a row since last season. "They just wore us down in the final period. I told the kids not to let this one game diminish what they accomplished this year."

Stags coach Mike Jones was impressed with the Gaels.

"They should be very proud of what they accomplished this year," he said. "This was one of the toughest games we've had to play all year long, and they definitely should be considered one of the best teams in the country. Our guys have championship-game experience and our experiences stepped up for us. This is very special for our seniors."

Down by 33-27 at the half, the Gaels outscored the Stags 19-12 in the third period to take a 46-45 lead into the final eight minutes before things unraveled.

The Stags (34-1) opened the final period with a 9-2 run to take a 54-48 lead and never looked back. Kenny Tate's three-pointer put the Stags up by seven with 5:22 remaining, and the lead ballooned with just over two minutes left.

Chris Braswell, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, came off DeMatha's bench and scored six of his 12 points in the final period and finished with eight rebounds and three blocks. Nigel Munson, who is headed to Virginia Tech, had a game-high 18 points and took tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Louis Birdsong, who was named to the all-tournament team, scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the Gaels' third-period surge and had 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Stags won their 19th Alhambra, the first under Mike Jones, who succeeded the legendary Morgan Wootten in 2003.

It was the Stags' 28th title game appearance, with Wootten winning the last in 2002 in his final game.

The Gaels, playing in only their second final, the other in 1971 when they also lost to DeMatha, 53-51, were trying to become only the fourth Baltimore team to win it.

DEMATHA-Freeman 10, Grant 13, K. Tate 3, Munson 18, Peterson 5, Miles 7, Braswell 12, Foster 2. Totals: 25 16-30 70. MOUNT ST. JOSEPH-Goodwin 10, Adams 5, Birdsong 14, Swecker 12, Gregory 6, Sims 6. Totals: 23 6-15 55. Half: D, 33-27.

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